I was web surfing in the middle of the night as usual, when I stumbled upon a web link: Top 10 Famous People who Committed Suicide. One of them was the poet Sylvia Plath. At that time, I stored Plath’s name in my memory, but did not do further studies on her or her work. The next day, when I was in a bookstore, my feet took me to the English Literature section and I found The Bell Jar, her one and only novel, a semi-autobiography.
Needless to say, I could not put it down. It grew so much on me that I became irrationally depressed. The only release I could get was by painting my eyes. I had always been drawn to dark colors. However, it was only after reading The Bell Jar that I felt the need to start wearing dark eye make-up. And so, my fascination with Plath began.
Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932 in Massachusetts. She studied at Smith College and Newnham College, Cambridge and later received acclaim as a professional poet and writer. Her genre of poetry can be classified as confessional poetry. The two best known collections of her poetry are The Colossus and Other Poems and Ariel. I own Ariel and I have to admit that I am greatly influenced by her writing style.
She married fellow poet Ted Hughes in 1956 and had two children with him, Frieda and Nicholas. Frieda later edited a new edition of the Ariel collection, feeling that her father’s version of Ariel did not completely show Sylvia Plath’s voice.
Her marriage to Hughes crumbled when Hughes was caught having an affair with their friend, the socialite Assia Wevill. When I learned about this, I completely identified myself with her as I have had a similar experience. The affair led to subsequent divorce, and, combined with a long struggle with depression (she was diagnosed with Bipolar Syndrome), made her to commit suicide.
At approximately 4:30 AM on February 11, 1963, Plath placed her head in the oven with the gas turned on. She died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Beforehand, she had sealed the rooms between her and her sleeping children with wet towels and cloths. Sylvia Plath was the first poet to win the Pulitzer Price posthumously. She won the award for her work The Collected Poems.
I am completely aware of Sylvia Plath’s dark influence. And yet I feel the strong need to know her personally and to learn from her, especially her sense of discipline when it comes to writing. She carried her Thesaurus around, preferring it to the Bible. Whenever she got home, she would make detailed descriptions of the places she visited and the people she met. These descriptions became the basis of her work. It is most unfortunate that people began to realize her talent after her death. Like Joni Mitchell said, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”